Belfast has been reborn since the end of The Troubles, and the tourist economy has boomed too. In spite of its tumultuous past, it is now one of the safest cities in the United Kingdom, with a burgeoning reputation for quirky pubs, good food, and great live music. What’s more, it remains a relatively low-cost destination compared with other UK cities.
A Small City with a Big Heart
Belfast is small. You can cover most of the city centre on foot, so it’s an idea to choose your accommodation in the centre too. That way, you can save on transport costs. Young people and students will like the social atmosphere found at Paddy’s Palace
Belfast right in the centre of town.
On the Lisburn Road, City Backpackers
is a little more laid back while the more mature traveller on the lookout for a comfortable and quiet hostel should check out The Linenhouse
. If you simply have to have a hotel, then Days Hotel
probably offers the best value.
Gandering at Galleries
Before you set out to explore the city, it’s a good idea to grab a map and up-to-date listings at the Belfast Welcome Office
in Donegall Place. There are several tours you can book from here that will take you round Belfast’s main attractions, including a taxi tour of the city’s famous murals. Most galleries offer free admission. These include the Mullan Gallery
on Lisburn Road, a good place to check out local artists; the Emer Gallery
, for an eclectic collection of paintings from artists such as Jimmy Bingham and Noel Murphy; and Belfast Exposed, a photographic exhibition hall that also doubles as a venue for the Belfast Film Festival
every April. If you’re interested in finding out more about the Troubles, then the Ulster Museum, off Stranmillis Road, is worth the trip. Admission is free and it’s located next to the Botanical Gardens.
For a small city, it’s Titanic
It was in the Belfast shipyards that Titanic was built and the area has been redeveloped as the Titanic Quarter to mark the 100-year anniversary of the liner’s demise. The Titanic Experience
has no fewer than nine galleries to get through, so set out early to see them all. You can trace the legend of the superliner from its birth on the docks to the eerie images of it watery grave. The area also hosts regular live events, including music and street theatre.
A cheap night on the Town
Sampling some of Belfast’s famous nightlife needn’t break the bank. A cheap meal can be had at one of the JD Wetherspoon outlets around town. The Bridge House on Bedford Street is centrally located for decent food at reasonable prices and a cheap cocktail before a night on the town. Instead of paying to take part in the official pub-crawl, organise your own with a map. Stay away from the tourist traps and you shouldn’t cost the earth. Auntie Annies, The Taphouse, The Elms, The Parlour and The ‘Bot’ (AKA The Botanic Inn) are all worth your attention.
Finish off your evening at Victoriason Chicester Street. Admission to the nightclub here is free. The Stiff Kitten makes a good alternative for dancing the night away to big name DJs and reasonably priced drinks. For live entertainment, Ormeau Avenue has The Limelight, Katy Daly’s, and the Spring and Airbrake where you can enjoy a pre-gig drink and catch a local band. The main venue occasionally plays host to international rock acts, but if you can’t stretch to the cost of a ticket, then Robinsons has traditional Irish sessions every night in its back bar.